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Ben Whitehurst, Gavin Sides and Colin Zwirko enjoy a pint at the Dubliner Bar

Ireland says welcome back, boys!

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Ben Whitehurst, Gavin Sides and Colin Zwirko enjoy a pint at the Dubliner Bar

The three young Texas men who were refused entry into Ireland by the Garda (police) National Immigration Bureau over a week ago were photographed happily sipping pints of Guinness at the Dubliner Bar hours after clearing immigration in Dublin Airport on Tuesday, July 14.

Colin Zwirko, 21, Ben Whitehurst, 21, and Gavin Sides, 19, landed in Dublin early Tuesday morning for the second time in 12 days. This time they were greeted by hordes of people and reporters.

The trio, dubbed the Plano 3 by the Irish media, was denied entry into Ireland on Thursday, July 3 because they did not have an address of where they were staying.

After the door to Ireland was slammed in their face, the trio, who were planning a six month European back-packing trip beginning in Ireland, had to each pay nearly $1,900 for a flight back to the U.S. on Delta Airlines. 

Insulted, upset and angered at the way they were treated in Ireland, Zwirko, who saved $10,000 for his once in a lifetime trip, and his Texas friends decided to do something about their situation and went to the media, including an extensive interview in last week’s Irish Voice.

Zwirko’s story finally reached Ireland, and after word got out that he and his friends were turned away for not having an address on their immigration slip (they were planning to stay on the couch of a person they met through the internet but they didn’t have his address, only a phone number) floods of offers came their way.

A Dublin-based hotel group, d4hotels.ie, offered to pay for the young men’s return flights, provide them with hotel rooms, food and drinks and give them $1,400 to spend in Dublin.

Live on Irish radio last Thursday, Zwirko and his friends, all from the Dallas/Forth Worth area, accepted the invitation.

“It’s been so amazing,” Zwirko told the Irish Voice.

“We were live on air and we accepted their offer,” said Zwirko, who was staying with a friend in New Jersey until they got on their flight in New York on Monday evening.  

Later Thursday afternoon Zwirko got word that an ad campaign in their honor was being made for radio in Ireland.

“These guys ... will become the greatest tourism ambassadors for Ireland in the United States,” said Anthony Kelly of D4Hotels.ie, adding that the young men have even inspired an ad campaign for his company.

“We have decided to run a cowboy advertisement on radio in Ireland with a good Texan 'Yee Haw!' in honor of the Plano 3,” Kelly said. “It is what we hope is a good Texan cowboy accent in honor of the Plano 3.”

The boys also received offers of accommodation from weddingvenuesireland.ie, and hostelworld.com have asked the three Texans to document their trip on camera as well as providing offers of accommodation. They will also write about their trip for our sister website, www.IrishCentral.com later in the week.

“We really didn’t expect this response. The people of Ireland have been amazing. It just shows you can’t judge the country by one woman,” Zwirko told the Irish Voice referring to the “stern-faced” immigration officer who turned them away.

Last week the Irish Embassy in Washington apologized to the three young men, and the Garda National Immigration Bureau in Dublin said they were investigating why the men were refused entry into Ireland in the first place.

Speaking to reporters in Ireland on Tuesday, Zwirko said, “The best we had hoped for was that we might get our flights refunded. So we really can’t believe our luck! What started as a backpacking trip has turned into the holiday of a lifetime!”

This time while traveling, the three boys had the address of the hotel they were staying in, the luxurious Ballsbridge Inn and Towers courtesy of D4.ie Hotels.

“We had everything prepared this time but we were still a little nervous, but we did breeze through,” said Sides.

“We learned the hard way,” said Zwirko. “We recognize now that we were less prepared than we should have been.”

The hotel has also given the boys €1,000 ($1,400) spending money as part of a hospitality package worth over €9,000.00. ($12,500.)

“Now more than ever, we need to be encouraging people to come to Ireland,” said Kelly of D4Hotels.ie. Speaking from Dublin, D4 Hotels General Manager Sarah Curran said the hotel was delighted to see the trio back in Ireland.

 “We heard of their plight last week and we just had to help,” said Curran. “Ireland is known for its hospitality and we thought it was important to help these three young lads out. We will be putting them up here for the week and then they're on their way across Europe.”

Sinead Grace, a spokesperson for Tourism Ireland said they were elated to hear that the Irish hoteliers have been so kind with their offers.

“Ireland’s reputation as a friendly and welcoming place is extremely important, and we wouldn’t take it for granted,” Grace said. “That is extremely important for us.”

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